'I'm optimistic:' Raleigh small business owners ready to start phase 1 of the reopen plan

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some small business retailers have been working throughout the pandemic by appointment only. In a couple of days, it'll be a different story.

Phase 1 of kicks in Friday evening at 5 p.m. and that means retail stores can reopen to the public in some fashion.

"I'm excited," said Art of Style owner Kendra Leonard. "This is like my second home."

Art of Style in Downtown Raleigh prides itself in having unique, comfortable pieces from emerging designers.

Leonard said limiting 10 people in the store at a time shouldn't be a problem since the spot is small.

The pandemic crushed sales, and she's looking forward to a bounce back.

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"I'm still optimistic, because I'm hoping that we're a part of this community and we're not going to be let go," she said.

Reopening will look different at small businesses than big box stores.

Nordstrom Rack sent out an email about the changes coming when it decides to welcome back customers. The retailer said it'll be providing face coverings for all customers and employees, and plans on modifying the fitting-room experience among other things.

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At the TJ Maxx on Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh, eager shoppers wait outside scouting out merchandise as employees were seen inside cleaning.

ABC11 called the store to see if it is opening Friday evening or Saturday morning. An associate said she wasn't sure.

JOANN Fabrics is welcoming customers again. People were seen Wednesday waiting in line six feet apart at the craft store.

Some large retailers may putting up Plexiglas at registers, but that's not going to happen at Art of Style.

Leonard doesn't really have extra money for big changes.

"I literally do not have money in the bank," she said. "Retail is not a fruitful (occupation)."

Leonard was finally approved last Friday for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. She is still waiting on a check to be deposited in her account.

For now, she's working as a one-woman show to rebuild her small business.

"I'm eventually going to have to sell all these clothes somehow. I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing and try to make appointments, reach out to clients without sounding desperate, and being like 'If I can help you with this, let me serve you,'" said Leonard.

She said she won't be able to offer huge discounts just to move product. Unlike big name retailers or department stores, Leonard said she can't afford to markdown everything; she's counting on every dollar.
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